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Sunday, April 16, 2006

Passover in Chile

I have a few Jewish friends in the program who were all very set on finding seders to go to in Santiago and they all somehow found them. I didn’t particularly care and didn’t have anywhere to go so figure I wouldn’t be doing anything for Passover. Then I randomly received an email inviting me to a seder. Jojo, my friend from camp and Bard was here last summer and put me in touch with this woman who grew up in the US but lives here now. I had been in contact with her about finding volunteer work and she sent me an email saying she had heard I was Jewish and did I want to come with her to her synagogue’s community seder. So Thursday night I went to meet her and her husband who is Chilean. We were supposed to meet at a Metro stop at the ticket booth. I waited there for a while and they didn’t show up. Then a voice come over the loud speaker and says that Sari Bilick (or some version of my name that was at least recognizable) should come to the ticket booth. Slightly embarrassing but I guess I didn’t know anyone so it is ok. I go to the ticket booth and they tell me that someone is waiting for me but at the other ticket booth. Who knew there were two of them? So a guard leads me to the other ticket booth on the other side of the tracks and I finally meet up with Maxine and Carlos. Around Santiago there are Estadios that have names of different countries, Estadio Palestino, Estadio España, Estadio Italia, etc. They are kind of like country clubs for people from that country. They have auditoriums, cultural events, multiple pools, gyms, etc. So this seder was at Estadio Israelita which is the Jewish community center. Besides being my first interaction with any Jews in Chile, it was the weirdest seder I had ever been to. Usually I have a seder with my family at someone’s house. This was a community seder so there was about 160 people there and so obviously less intimate. Since there were so many people, rather than everyone following along in the hagadah, we followed along with a Power Point presentation, projected onto two screens, complete with laser pointer to follow along with the songs. The Power Point also had little picture of claymation figures. When it got time for the plagues, there was a claymation video depicting all the plagues, so weird. The whole service was a mix of Spanish and Hebrew which was really interesting. It was fun to hear the story and the four questions and things like that in Spanish. So then, the weirdest part…even weirder than the Power Point. Every time we sang a song, it had a theme. The keyboardist would put on a beat, and the cantors put on costume accessories to match the theme (hats, jackets, etc.) and then they would dance with the traditional songs which were usually in Hebrew. For instance, one song had a techno beat, another was salsa, mambo, country western, opera, etc. It was so strange and pretty corney. I think the idea was to keep the kids entertained which worked pretty well, but not at all your traditional seder. I think the people at my table were slightly embarrassed that this was what I was seeing of a Chilean seder because the kept telling me that this is not what every Chilean seder was like.

I spent the night at Maxine and Carlos’s house. They live on the edge of Santiago in a really nice house with a cute garden in the back and grape vines one their patio. Carlos is an artist and has his paintings all over the house.

There is a place called Villa Grimaldi which during the military dictatorship in the 1970’s and 1980’s was one of the detention and torture camps of political prisoners. It has now been converted into a peace park to commemorate the people that were held, tortured, killed there. Every Good Friday, a group of progressive Catholics organizes a March to Villa Grimaldi. The next day I went with Maxine and Carlos to this event and met up with my friend Pesha there. There was a couple hundred people there and the march started a few blocks away and we walked to the park, stopping every once in a while so people could talk. There was lots of singing, and speeches. When we got to the park, we moved around to different places and people would talk. A couple of people who had be detained and tortured there spoke about there experiences. It was all very intense and moving. I would like to go back sometime to look around more. Here are some pictures of the event.

These plaques have the names of all the people that were killed at Villa Grimaldi. Everyone has a D.D. or a E.P. next to their name. D.D. means detained and disappeared, E.P. means political execution. In another part of the park there are other plaques with the same names but that list people by the years they were killed. The last death at Villa Grimaldi was in 1983. The detention center closed after that, but there were still many other detention centers and killings after 1983.

It is hard to see in this picture, but this is a tower that prisoners were held in.

This is one of the isolation chambers where they would keep prisoners

This is the original gate that prisoners would enter through. The gate is symbolically locked to represent that it is closed and that these gates will never open again. The park has a different entrance.

These things were horrific to see. I don’t have a picture but there is also a pool there that was used to drown prisoners. It is almost hard to believe that these things actually happened, and so recently, but then there were people talking about there personal experiences there and they are witnesses to everything that happened and it is all very real.


At 7:43 AM, April 18, 2006, Blogger sonja said...

i can't get over that there was a power point and laser pointer at the seder.

At 8:45 PM, May 04, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...


We actually used that same power point at Immy's this year! It must be a new Jewish trend.



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